By Phil Hall | January 27, 2002

Marcin is a 21-year-old mechanic in a small industrial town in the southwestern corner of Poland. He is a fan of James Dean and The Smiths and he is the best-looking young man in town. Kaska is his 18-year-old girlfriend who lives next door. She just graduated from high school and she is the best-looking young lady in town. Marcin’s father has just died (and yes, he is the best looking corpse in town). Marcin, who has no siblings and whose mother passed away a decade earlier, must make the funeral arrangements on his own. In a remarkable act of bad timing, Kaska abruptly announces she is going to Chicago for her college studies, with her full tuition paid for by an uncle.
This is the basic set-up for “Louder Than Bombs,” which is a rather curious title for a relatively low-keyed and quotidian melodrama. Polish filmmaker Przemyslaw Wojcieszk created an intriguing set-up, but then strangely never bothered to flesh out the anguish and angst which his young lovers are facing. Part of the problem comes from having two highly photogenic lead actors (Rafal Mackowiak as Marcin and Sylwia Jusczak as Kaska) who are devastatingly pretty but thoroughly incapable of coughing up anything which even the most charitable witness can confirm as a sign of acting. When they are on-screen, it seems to be a photo shoot with dialogue rather than a serious drama; both actors are more focused in posing for the camera rather than exploring the depth and scope of their characters’ suffering and trials.
The non-acting by the leads is excessively compensated by the overacting of the performers who play Marcin’s boorish distant relatives, who come to the funeral and never stop fighting. There is his obnoxious gasket-designer cousin Marian who smashes cell phones when a connection cannot be made, Marian’s put-upon wife Teresa who spits sunflower seeds in disgust, their idiot son Geoffrey who thinks he’s God gift to Poland, and Geoffrey’s constantly hostile girlfriend Jagoda who shows her contempt for the surroundings by kicking Geoffrey in the groin. You don’t need to know the names of these actors, who ham up their roles with such reckless abandon (a Rod Steiger-canon complete with screams, eye-rolls, grimaces, arm waving, etc.) that it makes you queasy to watch so much scenery chewing.
The only thing “Louder Than Bombs” has going for it is a lengthy glimpse of how Poland has embraced the free world in the decade following the collapse of Communist rule: meals are consumed at McDonald’s and Pizza Hut, Limp Bikzit’s latest songs are downloaded via MP3, WWF knockabout rules on television, Britney Spears annoys and fascinates people, and shoppers wander about malls. There is also a rockabilly score by a local band called The Comets; the music is thoroughly inappropriate for the film, but rockabilly fans will get a kick from its infectious beat and there is always the option of closing your eyes and enjoying the lively soundtrack without watching the dull movie.

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